Why can’t we just be nice to each other?
I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve thought those words over the last few weeks. Every corner of my life seems to put me face to face with individuals acting badly towards each other. I don’t like being witness to it at all. But bad conduct is not just uncomfortable to watch, it can cause us to shrink back and avoid exposure to certain situations or people.
But, friends, we are not called to be passive. The bible says we are equipped for every situation (2 Timothy 3:17). We have spiritual tools that equip us to handle every situation life brings our way – including this one.
So, here’s my situation. At my day job, I am part of a leadership group that meets on a regular basis. It’s a fairly small group, and we’re often tasked with making decisions that impact others. Of course, the nature of our conversations sometimes leads to “highly spirited” conversations.
Difficult conversations are not my concern. Disagreement – when done in a healthy way – is okay. Sometimes the sweetest fruit comes through hard conversations. But, I’m not talking about constructive dialog. The type of dialog I’ve been seeing recently is more of a get-the-point-across-at-all-costs, leave-no-bridge-unburned, destroy-or-be-destroyed battles.
What troubled me was the behavior during one particular meeting was so unsettling it took me two days to shake it. I figured I had a choice. Grin and bear it, or figure out how to work through it. So, I did what I often do. I made sense of it by asking God what I needed to learn from it.
I started by taking a look at what the Bible says about situations like mine, and unsurprisingly, I found a lot of scripture speaks about difficult situations. It seems God knew we’d need to understand how we should walk through tuff relationships. Huh, right? I guess he knew in our mess and brokenness would flow over the people around us.
The first thing I discovered is that our primary response should be prayer. Verses like 1 Chronicles 6:21 Ephesians 6:18 say we should always pray. And there are promises that God will answer our prayers in scriptures like Psalm 34:15, 1 John 5:14, and Jeremiah 29: 13.
The thing is, maybe like me you know these promises… in theory. But, in the heat of a situation is it imbedded into who we are to the point that it’s natural? I confess, sometimes I’d react by praying, and sometimes I just react. So, note taken – first pray!
Another thing I discovered is, it helps to identify the origin of a person’s behavior. Understand what’s going on in the individual’s heart can help us avoid confrontation. In Mark chapter 3, we find Jesus about to heal a man on the Sabbath. Now work was forbidden on that day, but some men in the crowd thought it was an opportunity to catch Jesus on a technicality. They figured if Jesus healed the man on the day work was forbidden, killing him would be justified. Looking at the plan with 2000-year hindsight, it seems like a shoddy plan. But, Jesus – knowing their hearts – asks whether it’s lawful to save a life or kill on the Sabbath. Boom. They left. Being aware of their motive determined Jesus’s approach, and it should for us too.
Scriptures also tell us to seek peace. Hebrews 12:14 says we’re supposed to find a way to be at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 encourages us to do our best to live at peace with others. Friends, that means we need to take a good look in the mirror to make sure we’re not part of the problem. It’s easy to skip this one when situations with other’s go south. It’s so much easier to focus on what others are doing. But, if we don’t consider how we contribute to what’s going on, we’re going to end up with a lopsided conclusion and likely react inappropriately.
Instead of letting a difficult situation continue to escalate, we are to try to settle the matter. In Luke (12:58) we’re told to do our best to settle an issue before it escalates. And in Matthew (18:15) we’re told to do it in private. Confronting the issue in private does two things. It eliminates outside opinions contaminating or provoking the discussion. If a situation is heated, you don’t need it fueled by other people’s opinions.
Allow for humanity. Look, I get your visceral reaction may be to retaliate when someone is coming at you verbally. But, we’re supposed to make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive (Colossians 3:13 – 14). Offer forgiveness when others do not deserve it. My friends, I encourage you to remember that grace and mercy apply to others – not just to you.
Finally – and maybe most importantly – we must understand that many times difficult situations have a spiritual component (Ephesians 6:12). It’s something to recognize, but not fear. Verses like 2 Corinthians 10: 3 – 5, Psalm 91:1, and Deuteronomy 28:7 promise protection and victory.
So, to my question: “Why can’t we just be nice to each other?” I say. Maybe we can, but sometimes we just won’t. It’s human. It happens. What I do know is the Bible provides direction for every situation in life. The Bible is a guide for the extraordinary things that happen in our lives, and in the day-to-day. It’s a lamp that lights our way (Psalm 119:105) with understanding, compassion, and battle ready.